Alderman indicted on fraud, bribery charges

May 28, 2009 9:05:26 PM PDT
Alderman Isaac "Ike" Carothers was indicted Thursday on federal fraud and bribery charges for allegedly receiving $40,000 in home improvements from a developer in return for supporting a zoning change.

Alderman Isaac "Ike" Carothers allegedly supported the rezoning of a 50-acre former rail yard and industrial site on Chicago's West Side sought by developer Calvin Boender, the 11-count indictment said. Boender also was charged in the alleged scheme, which prosecutors said included giving Carothers meals and tickets to sporting events.

Boender made about $3 million when 25 acres was sold for $6 million after the property, the largest undeveloped tract in the city, was rezoned, prosecutors said. It now includes a 14-screen movie theater, a union training center and 187 single- and multi-family homes.

"Using public office to obtain personal financial benefits violates the public trust and we will continue to vigilantly investigate and prosecute both corrupt public officials and businessmen who see to profit by corruption them," U.S. District Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said.

In a written statement, Carothers said, "I have not seen theses charges so I have no comment." But he added, "At the appropriate time, I will make a statement."

Mayor Daley issued a written statement on Thursday evening saying the charges against Ike Carothers come as "sad and surprising news" and that the mayor has known Carothers only to be a hardworking, dedicated public servant.

According to the indictment, in the summer of 2004, Boender paid for improvements to Carothers' home, including painting, new windows and central air conditioning. Then in September of that year, Boender sought a zoning amendment to develop the land for residential and commercial use.

Carothers allegedly introduced ordinances to rezone the property, and voted in favor of them in 2007. He also allegedly filed a false statement to the city, failing to disclose the gifts from Boender, prosecutors said.

Carothers and Boender, both 54, will be arraigned at a later date, officials said.

The indictment seeks the forfeiture of $40,000 from Carothers and $3 million from Boender, as well as his financial interest in the development.

Carothers is chair of the Police and Fire Committee, and a member of the council's Committee on Rules and Ethics. He did not come into the office on Thursday and declined comment on Thursday.

Boender has links to other public officials in the Galewood Yards development. Prosecutors say that Boender sought to further curry favor with Carothers by offering up and disguising some oversize campaign contributions to a relative of Carothers.

Boender has been a major campaign contributor to Carothers as well as Chicago congressman Luis Gutierrez. The congressman is not charged with any wrongdoing.

The attorneys for Carother and Boender both say their clients will enter not guilty pleas. Court dates haven't been set yet.

No one else is named in the indictment, but the investigation goes on.

"Like most other investigations, this continues. If anyone has any relevant information, we're all ears," said Fitzgerald during a press conference.

Since 1972, 27 Chicago aldermen have been convicted of criminal charges. One of them was Ike Carothers' father, Bill Carothers, alderman of the 28th ward back in 1983 when he was convicted and sent to prison for extortion.

Carothers joins a long list of Chicago aldermen who have been indicted in recent years. In February, former Alderman Arenda Troutman was sentenced to four years in prison for taking thousands of dollars in payoffs and campaign money from developers while she was on the council.

Carothers followed in his father's footsteps when he was elected to the City Council in 1999. Two years later, he was appointed chairman to the council's powerful Police and Fire Committee.

He has been a vocal critic of Police Superintendent Jody Weis, calling him before the committee and grilling Weis about statistics that have suggested officers were not aggressively fighting crime.

He previously working as an investigator with the Cook County Public Defender's Office, before being appointed as superintendent with the city's water department in 1989. Four years later, he was appointed as Director of Internal Audit for the city's park district.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.


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